The good news: modern technology now enables anyone with the vaguest of musical aspirations to get right down to the business of making music using a home computer and the internet. The bad news (for those looking for the easy way out): you still need to work hard to make it sound good.
Music software and the internet have opened up a whole new world of possibilities for the musically inclined. You don’t need to spend a fortune getting your starter kit ready, you can work out of the comfort of your home and you can collaborate with musicians from all over the world.
The most common questions we hear are: how do I start, what software do I use, what kind of music can I make on the computer and do I need to know music theory?
What we’re aiming to do with this article is point you in the right direction to get you the answers that you need. Rather than make it a technical how-to guide (for which we would require the entire magazine), we bring you the starting points to what can end up being a supremely fulfilling journey.
MUSIC SOFTWARE OVERVIEW
In our survey we found that most musicians prefer a combination of software to suit their needs. However to get a feel of what it’s like to make music on the computer, you can begin with any of these from our list of the most recommended programs.
Demo versions of most programs are available on their websites. Try these out before buying the full version. Also check the minimum system requirements for each software.
FL Studio 6 FRUITY LOOPS
Highly recommended as being one of the easiest programs with which to create loops and grooves with your computer. It is a pattern-based sequencer and thus allows you to create your song in patterns and then put it together.
PROPELLERHEAD’S REASON 3.0
This software is modelled on a real studio and has a virtual studio rack with synths, drum machines, samplers, effects processors all the other tools and instruments you need to make music.
CAKEWALK SONAR HOME STUDIO
Is recommended as a good tool for creating your own compositions from scratch. You can record any instruments or vocals onto a separate track. Once you have recorded your tracks, you can visually arrange, edit, and mix them.
Once you’ve picked the software you need to make music, the question still remains ‘Where do I start?’ With all those virtual knobs and controllers it can seem difficult to figure out exactly what it is you have to do.
Enter: The Tutorial – make it your best friend and find as many as you can. Each music software package comes with a list of tutorials so that’s a good place to start. Another excellent source is the internet. There are numerous tutorials often explained in simple terms and with step-by-step diagrams.
We bring you a brief list to give you an idea of what you can find.
- Online version of Computer Music magazine. We highly recommend this site for its detailed tutorials.
- Features a database of its best tutorials from sold out back issues. Conveniently graded according to difficulty level.
- Also features music technology forums with a special beginner’s area
- Tutorials include:
Music theory for beginners
50 Bass programming tips
Using effects – reverb, compression, gating
Vocal tricks of the pros
- Free digital music production resources – has material for both newbies and experienced musicians.
- Features discussion forums on production techniques, production questions, new software releases, Fruity Loops, Cubase, Reason, Logic and Sonar
- Tutorials include:
introduction to remixing
introduction to writing drum & bass
soft synths and how to use them
optimising your PC for audio
Aki Nawaz, musician/owner of Nation Records
“I feel technology [as a tool] is only a hindrance if you let it control you and you are short on creative ideas. Otherwise the fact that everyone now has an opportunity to make music is a great social opportunity. People doing amazing stuff. Listen to the result and don’t think how it’s been done or should I say be amazed that technology has been used for such results- all in all a great tool.”
Matt Black, electronic music pioneer/founder of legendary Ninja Tune Records
“It’s a lovely feeling to put sounds together and make a track. And if your friends like it and people dance to it, that’s great. The problem comes when people think they’re going to be as successful as Madonna, or any million selling artist. Well there’s a lot more people trying to make music now, and the music business is a lot harder, so it’s a lot more difficult to get noticed.”
You can read the rest of our feature Getting Started in the January 2006 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.
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